Story and art: Shuzo Oshimi
Published by: Denpa
What if you never had the ability to express yourself?
High school can be a stressful time for many young people. For Shino Oshima, things go wrong on her first day as she fails to even say her name during her class introduction. Ostracized and afraid, she struggles to find her place in this new world… But thankfully she finds her voice through music and some unexpected new friends.
Shino’s story begins with her practicing saying her name in the mirror before school starts. You can clearly see the anxiety on her face throughout her practicing and even more so as the time approaches for her to say her name in a room of her peers. The closer it gets to her turn, the more contorted the panel reflecting the way Shino must feel inside. Finally, it becomes her turn and she stands in front of them, unable to say her name but instead stands, mouth agape, unable to speak, and her classmates laughing at her. After class, her teacher tries to give her some unhelpful and unsolicited advice of “taking deep breaths” and “trying to be friendlier” to help her speak and gain friends. Still, no one will speak to her with the exception of one classmate, Kayo.
Kayo and Shino seem to hit it off, and Shino even gets invited to Kayo’s home where she finds Kayo has a passion for music, but has one issue; she’s tone-deaf. Kayo is able to help Shino communicate with her via using a notebook similar to how Komi from Komi Can’t Communicate but quickly learns that Shino’s impediment goes away when she sings. As Will from Right Stuf Anime more eloquently explains, “They give each other a voice, and suffer when they’re apart.”
Unfortunately, Shino leaves their duo when Kikuchi, another student from their class happens to overhear them playing and in his own way of complimenting them, asks to join their band. This is unfortunate for Shino because Kikuchi was one of the main students mocking her impediment.
When I grabbed this manga, I had no idea what I was going to be reading. I thought it would be similar to that of Komi Can’t Communicate, but instead, it allowed me to see the difference between the two. In the afterword, Oshimi makes it clear that he did not use the words ‘stuttering’ or ‘speech impediment’ because he didn’t want the story to be solely about those things.
“As long as it can hit home with anyone, yet it still remains a story about one person, that’s good enough for me.” – Shuzo Oshimi